In this edition of The End Of The Line podcast, Ramsey Russell and Rocky Leflore get together and discuss the hunters that are consistently successful. Why is it? It all goes back to the two P’s. All that and more! It is a great episode with Ramsey, sure to become an instant classic that everyone enjoys. We also talk a lot about Forrest Russell and Josh Criswell.
Mad at Turkeys
I’ll tell you this, turkey hunting is the ultimate sport that drives hunters mad to do some crazy things.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of The Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore in the Duck South studios in the Oxford, Mississippi. It’s Thursday, how did we end up missing last Thursday, Ramsey?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. Rocky, you get busy and you get chaotic busy. I can’t even remember what I did last Thursday. It’s been so hectic because understand – you think my travel schedule looks busy – it really starts rocking on when I get here at the house. I’m at the computer all day every day and answering the phone all day every day, so I don’t remember how we got off last Thursday, Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Oh man. Look, I’ve been running through the woods with one of your best friends the past two days.
Ramsey Russell: Who?
Rocky Leflore: Chris Well.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah, Chris Well is the maddest person I know at a turkey. And that I personally know, I think Chris Well is mad at turkeys. Second only, maybe to Forrest. Forrest hates the turkey and I don’t know why, but he hates them. Ge ain’t killed one, sure, but not for trying. He’s hunting at them hard but he hasn’t connected yet.
Rocky Leflore: Look Chris Well and I both woke up yesterday morning about a quarter to 5 and I looked over at him he said, man I got a freaking headache. We had maybe one whiskey drink Tuesday night. He said, “I know I didn’t drink that much.” I said, “Man, I’m telling you it was from laughing.” Holy crap man, we had a ball chasing turkeys. We had a ball! I just sat back and listened, I didn’t talk a lot and I just sat back and listen to them tell stories about hunting public land in Arkansas. Spence and Brooks, Tinsley, and it was a great time to hang out with them but Chris Well is mad at turkeys.
Ramsey Russell: Oh he is.
Rocky Leflore: He and I were teamed up together to go after and the turkeys. For some reason there’s a lot of turkeys in this place and they were pretty quiet except the last day that we were there. That first day they didn’t say a word. We saw a ton but they were quiet, they weren’t gobbling much. The second day they started gobbling and set crucial up where I thought for sure it was a done deal. And I said listen, I’m just going to go to the other end of this place – they were flying down right on top of Chris Well. I was going in a backup spot. Well, it turns out the turkeys were at the backup spot and it was a flock of them.
Ramsey Russell: Did you get one?
Rocky Leflore: Did not. We chased turkeys and pulled the tail feathers and I’ll tell you what we did learn the past couple of days. The place that I hunt – it’s me and one other guy that hunts probably 6000 acres. I found out over the past two days that people think when the cat’s away the mice will play. Crap, it was freaking trespassers. I don’t know how many trespassers we kicked off the place. I’ll tell you this, turkey hunting is the ultimate sport that drives hunters mad to do some crazy things. They know when it comes to turkey hunting.
Hunting on Public Land vs Private Land
A successful public land turkey hunter is probably the most badass of badass woodsmen in my opinion..
Ramsey Russell: I can’t disagree with you there. I’m glad I’m not afflicted with it, like you all, like Forrest. Forrest has been pulling his hair out. He had been dug in hard on turkey, and boy, I mean he’s had some close calls it sounds like, but he hadn’t closed the deal yet. He’s a public land turkey hunter, which to me puts them in a whole another category of turkey hunter. That in and of itself puts it in a whole another category. You know, we all read the Internet. Public land duck hunting is one thing, but public land turkey hunt is something entirely different I think. I’ve always thought that the best turkey hunters and the best turkey hunting experience was private land. Because to me, I don’t turkey hunt, but I do get it. I’ve turkey hunted and I get the relationship. If anything lures me to turkey hunting, it’s the relationship between the hunter and that bird, that gobbler that you hear. But how do you do it? How do you really go in there and develop a relationship with that guy, you start figuring them out and understanding? When a person or persons unknown trespass on private land, I guess or public land hunters are interested in running interference and messing with that bird when you’re not there. I’ve always been envious of people that have at their disposal private land with turkeys on it – that they get to know those turkeys year around. Even during the off season you’re out there in the Fall, you see those turkeys out there feeding the patch, your hens or you’re walking along and you begin to just kind of understand those turkeys and their relationship to that land. So, you get to kind of begin to understand that land base, and where to be and where to go, and how to do it, and now it’s just a tango dance between you and that bird until the stars line up and you close the deal. Now that’s something – I guess if I could get up every morning and walk out or drive out to somewhere behind a locked gate, hopefully with no trespassers, and if nothing else just sit there and listen and walk through the woods. As a forester I walked through the woods this time of year, many a time and it’s just beautiful to watch Mississippi woodlands start to wake up. This in-between seasons stuff is really nice. I think I would really probably enjoy it or at least entertain the idea of being a turkey hunter more if I had that opportunity and I don’t.
Rocky Leflore: See if you agree with me on this Ramsey. Public land turkey hunting is the same as extreme shot chasing in duck hunting – public land turkey hunting. I mean, because man, it’s almost cartoonish. You hear birds gobble and you’ve got 10 people coming at a bird from every different angle coming at that bird.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, one of Forrest’s little buddy, he’s a grown man now, but one of Forrest buddies I’ve known him since he was a little boy, was describing having gotten up and gone to an area that he hunts. He got in there way before daylight, just waited. Here’s that gobbler off their way down the road, just where he kind of expected it to, and as he’s sorting his stuff, he’s got the whole gate to himself, the whole little parking lot to himself. About that time, coming in on two tires with bright lights and roared up headers on the motor, here comes a guy whooping in the parking lot, slams on the brakes, put the stuff on the side and says, “Morning, how are you doing?” He said, “Hey man, I’ve been here for 2 hours.” And the guy said, “Yeah, well this is the only place I know, so it looks like we’re both hunting it.” What do you do? There you go. Man, how disappointing that must be. Forrest told me some of the areas he hunts, that he’ll hear that bird gobbling on the roost, maybe fly down start gobbling, doesn’t matter how fast or whatever, he said if you can hear car blacktop or gravel, that bird shuts up. You don’t know if he’s standing there scared to death or if he’s walking. It’s not gobbling. But for 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes that bird shuts up. He knows to shut up, I heard a car. How do you play chess with that bird, when he’s adapting to the pressure and not playing by the rules? I can see why Forrest is – it would absolutely frustrate me to death. I will not tell on Forrest because boy, he finally figured a bird out. Bird went quiet, he’d moved a little bit from where he’d been the day before and Forrest got in there close to him and the bird was gobbling good. It’s almost like he was gobbling while he was running. Forrest ran down the creek bank, just ran himself and finally cut that bird off and got in front of him, he said he probably ran a mile. Finally got in front of that bird, that bird was just coming through the woods, gobbling, he popped up, got set up about 100 yards away from him. Boom! Shot goes off, killed his turkey, had no idea that guy was even in the world. That’s public land hunting at its best. I’ll say this Rocky, I grew up hunting public duck woods. I mean, that’s where I cut my teeth was on public and I don’t think it was the madhouse then. We’re talking nearly 20 years ago, I don’t think it was the madhouse then that it is now. But it was competitive and I ain’t got a competitive bone in my body really, my biggest competition has always been myself. Pushing myself to go faster or do more or whatever, that’s what’s been my motivator in life until I started duck hunting in public land. All things equal, you either win or you lose. You get on the board or you don’t. Somebody’s got to kill the most ducks out there, or their limit that day and not everybody is. I always felt like it made me a better hunter. I felt like it made me a more aggressive caller or a less aggressive caller. I think it made me strategize how to wear and how to hunt those birds, all things equal. Turkey hunting, wow, I mean at least when I’m out there on a public land duck hunting places that I hunt at the breaks, places like that, I kind of sort of knew where everybody was. I guess I’m in the wood, I hear them calling, I know where they are and they’re mobile and they may be downwind of me, they may be doing something unscrupulous, but they’re not within 30 yards of the loaded shotgun pointing my way. That’s a scary thing to me too about hunting turkey land is nobody’s wearing blaze orange, nobody’s making noise. They’re all little Hiawatha Indians, hiding from a turkey. You just got to assume that they know that you’re walking through the woods doing something – you got to just assume that they know hunter safety and don’t mistake you for a turkey or something along those lines. Countless people have been shot turkey hunting and I just choose not to do it on public land. God bless you if you do because you’re to me a public land turkey hunter. A successful public land turkey hunter is probably the most badass of badass woodsmen in my opinion. I guess you or somebody told me one time about the hot streaking of it all.
Persistence Pays When You’re on the Hunting
They will sit there and wait a bird out.
Rocky Leflore: That’s what I was just fixing to say to you. Well, I was going to say this, I think that the thing that I’ve found about turkey hunting is, there’s a lot of people, not a lot, there is a small fraction of turkey hunters that stay on hot streaks. But the thing that I think about those people is they’re the most patient. They will sit there and wait a bird out. A lot of times I’ll be the first to admit, you got a bird gobbling every call you make, what’s the first thought that comes to your mind? Oh man, he’s 150 yards away, I’m going to get a little closer, you know just a little closer. Well he’s gobbling, the thing about it is, he’s gobbling to your call. At some point before he gets back on the roost, he’s going to come check that spot out, all you got to do is be patient. That’s it. But we as humans are so impatient and everything, in every turkey I’ve ever killed except maybe 3 or 4 they were killed as soon as they flew out of the tree right in front of my gun barrel, all the rest of them, the other 30 or 40, they were waited out. You’ve just got to sit there. I know that it gets a bit boring and that’s a lot of time. That’s why duck hunters don’t make good turkey hunters because it’s a lot of sitting and waiting it out. Deer hunters certainly would make better turkey hunters.
Ramsey Russell: Well given this last season, the way I hunt, how I hunt, you better have persistence stick it out. I’ve always been that guy – we talked about this before too. Okay, I’m hunting here, I’m in Mississippi or wherever I am and the ducks aren’t in. The ducks aren’t flying, they aren’t doing this but that next duck.
Rocky Leflore: I’ll take it back Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Some duck hunters. I get what you’re saying, some duck hunters. It’s funny you say that, I wrote Forrest the other day and I literally said persistence pays, be persistent. But now let’s take it to a whole nother level Rocky. I know you love your Zig Ziglar moments about life and business but the same could be said about anything – about building a brand, about building a business, about building a career, about climbing the ladder, about finishing school, about taking organic chemistry and getting a C instead of an F, I mean persistence. Man, being a baseball player, you’re talking about hot streaks, boy, we come into college baseball and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t watch sports after college level. I love the streakiness of college baseball in high school and little league baseball, I love that because it’s pure emotion. A lot of it – and I know the skill set don’t get me wrong – I know there’s immense skill set involved in college baseball, but you ever notice a guy, did you ever notice somebody just kind of making it along. Ain’t doing their best, buddy gets into a tournament, and all of a sudden, them bats get hot and it carries them all the way to Oklahoma. You know what I’m saying? The Omaha’s. But again, persistence. They kept persistent at what they were doing until it all hooked up. I’ve always said, shooting bands for example, is lucky. Shooting bands is just luck of the universe but it ain’t, it is purely statistical. You know I’m saying? I can remember a camp I was in over in Arkansas kept meticulous records of ducks killed per blind, mallards killed per blind, and aggregate, on a very simple format kept it up. Let me tell you what, about 200 mallards were being killed there was a band period, end of discussion. When you got done at the end of the season most years, you could divide the number of mallards by a number of bands that worked out to about 200. I mean, it was purely statistical. Well, the more mallard the more Canada geese, the more blue wing teal, the more wood duck, more ducks that a man shoots, the more bands you’re going to get “lucky” and kill. That’s my professional opinions and it just takes persistence. It just takes sticking to the course.
Rocky Leflore: Well, I shouldn’t have lumped all duck hunters in there though because some of the most successful duck hunters are the guy, they waited out till 12 o’clock. They don’t look at their watch at 8:30, say, oh man, nothing’s flying. I got to cut out, kick leaves. Usually the guy after 8:30 when they don’t fly is the guy that kills him.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve got a member in our camp. We all laugh and kid about, he’s one of my favorite members honestly, but the whole big joke is, you always hear his four wheeler first. Nobody drives four wheels no more, they all drive these rangers and things. The whole big thing is about 8:00-8:30, “I smell bacon,” he says, him and his boys load up and go. Our property, in average normal good years, it seemed to me that you’re liable to shoot mallards at daybreak, but really truly they start kind of coming in later, you know, wherever they are feeding and whatever they’re doing. A lot of flooded timber, a lot of different habitats you hunt, birds really aren’t feeding, they’re coming in to lay up and do their thing. So that mid-morning flight and the people that got to go and smell bacon and do this and do that, I don’t mind sticking it out. Besides that what I got better to do than sit there and visit with the people I choose to hunt with? I loved it. Some of my most memorable duck hunts have been sticking it out. I say all the time, my favorite duck is the next one. Well you really don’t know what the next duck is, could be your first band, it could be a different species, maybe a hybrid, I never killed one but my God, I’m sticking it out waiting on one.
Rocky Leflore: Especially in Mississippi though, what you just said Ramsey, especially in Mississippi. A lot of people shoot those early flights gadwalls, it’s over, let’s go. But they missed those two packs of the pair of mallards that come in every 15 minutes starting at about 9:00-12:00.
Talking Duck Numbers
To me numbers cheapen it, I’m there for a different reason.
Ramsey Russell: That’s exactly right. On one hand, I do like the spectacle of seeing a bunch of mallards but from a hunting standpoint, I really like fooling with singles to 4 packs, that’s a more workable numbers of birds. To me it’s just a little more intimate, a little more one-on-one and it might not be a mallard necessarily, but I do like to fool with them. It could be something else. Some of the places out West I’ve hunted where there’s a lot of mallard’s, clients start getting a little anxious, ready to roll around late breakfast time, 11:00. Even there last year, especially productive hunting was later. Hunting out in Wyoming, Wild Nebraska Outfitters last year, a lot of Canada geese were coming off and it was warm. It wasn’t snow, it wasn’t cold, you weren’t frozen when you come into these feed areas but a lot of birds were coming over. We seduced a few of them into the decoys as they were flying over us going somewhere to feed out towards Fort Laramie and when they started coming back, 10:30 or 11:00, that’s when we capitalized on limits. But during the interim, we just sat there and fool around and talked and visited but we were persistent in hunting in Nebraska last year. You know, the week before we were there was really nice weather. Hunting out there in Western Nebraska with Ryan Livingston, wow, I mean those guys just lit the mallards up, lit them up. When we were there it was warmer, so we had to wait them out and what else do we have to do but wait out mallards till 1 o’clock? Who cares? I mean we had enough mallards coming in, in singles and pairs, we literally took turns and it took until 1 o’clock to get them, big deal. What else do we have to do? We were duck hunting, it was beautiful. But deer hunting, man, countless of the guys that find that old buck, I’m not this kind of deer hunting people. I mean, I go out on a deer hunt and I just take what the universe throws out in front of the scope. I mean, that’s just me. I’m not even a trophy hunter Rocky, I could really care less about how big his antlers are. You know what turns me on is an old deer. I want old deer normally. I think that’s a lot better than big deer, I want a old deer. But I just take what the universe gives. I mean, I know these guys that get out and lay in with a buck, maybe they followed it. I mean I know guys that put out cameras like breadcrumbs through the woods and can just follow this deer and they begin to know and pattern what this deer is doing. Well, still the stars have to line up and get out there and kill him. Maybe they get a close shot at him in at a year or 4. He just ain’t quite big enough. They let him go to come back and I think that relation with that animal – I like that. That’s kind of interesting to me that people can develop that relationship so to speak with that animal and then really hunt that animal. To me that’s a lot of what turkey hunting is, don’t you think? I mean to me, from outsiders looking in as a non-turkey hunter, that’s how I get it. Maybe that’s why I’m really not a big turkey hunter because I don’t have anywhere. It’s not like, you go look up in the newspaper somebody leasing a great turkey land. That doesn’t exist. Maybe you look and find some or something like that but really it doesn’t. I get that part of turkey hunting, that relationship part of it. That’s to me what’s so cool about it. I hear these guys – I saw a post – I don’t remember what it was about, somewhere on Ducks South, “Yeah, well I didn’t say nothing about this past duck season, but I hunt hard and I hunt wild. I hunt good and I’m better than all you sons of a gun, and killer’s going to kill. I’m a duck killer and I went and killed a bunch of ducks this year.” Great, let me give you a pat on the back Mister. Come on Rocky! I mean who the heck did that this year? And again, different folks, different strokes. I have a pretty wide past of traveling and doing things work related and experience related. When I’m home in Mississippi, I don’t want to hunt 50 different places. Because I’m coming in for a little bit more than just raw duck numbers. I don’t even keep up with how many ducks we killed. I don’t keep up – I can’t tell you how many ducks Team Russell killed last year, or the year before, or in my life. To me numbers cheapen it, I’m there for a different reason. Heck yeah, I want to shoot ducks, I’m there for a little bit different reason. And I guess what I’m getting at is, great. People go out and scout and they do this and do that but I submit to you as a former public land hunter – and I was a public land hunter and love public lands – it made me a better duck hunter, made me hunt harder, it kind of brought out my competitive best being a public hunter. As I started having children, a lot of public hunting I was doing was dangerous. It was dangerous. It’s probably the most dangerous place on God’s Earth to duck hunt. As I started having kids, Forrest born in ‘97, I didn’t want that no more. I didn’t want to go out to public land at 4:00 AM and try to teach a child who was handicapped with skills set anyway. I didn’t want to over limit him and put him into somewhere where instead of learning the fundamentals of just duck hunting, he had to compete with 50 other people hidden behind a cypress tree. Highball and hunt hard and be rude if you had to be rude and do things, I didn’t want that. So, that’s when I started looking at a club solution, a little bit different opportunity and that was just my choice. I still admit to you that I believe, if you work harder and dig deeper, you kill more ducks than if you don’t but I still think there’s a whole lot of luck involved in it. I think if you shot ducks last year anywhere in the Continental United States of America, let alone in the very Deep South, I think you had a little bit of luck, you got a little streaky there, I think you had a little luck going for you too, that’s just my humble opinion. I’m not saying you didn’t work hard, you didn’t shoot well, you didn’t obey the fundamentals and work harder maybe than your contemporaries, but I think he had some luck going for you too because there wasn’t just a ton of ducks. And that’s just my thoughts on the subject, Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Well, I’ll say this, you know what I’ve always compared public hunting to? Whether it be turkey, deer or duck, I’ve always compared it to the poker table at the casino. You’ve got the guys that watch Texas Hold ‘Em on ESPN 2 or 3 times, “Man, I can do this.” Let’s roll. And you’ve got the guys that have done it for a while, they’re pretty good, they could go either way. They may play a wild hand, they may play a scheme. I can never tell. Then you got the old guys, man, they work the odds, they worked the percentages, they’ve got numbers rolling through their head, they win 80%-90% of the time. And that’s what it’s like in the woods. The most successful ones are the most patient and persistent and they put the odds in their favor going into that hen where there’d be scouting or they put all these things, they don’t just ride through the boat, ride through the public land, shot chasing, gobble chasing. They’ve scouted, they’ve done their homework, they know their everything. Agree with that?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I do. They know when to hold, they know when to fold.
Rocky Leflore: Exactly.
Patience in Hunting
Ramsey Russell: I mean, yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Yeah, that’s a damn good way of putting it. Hey, I got to thinking about this hunting private land a little while ago and it made me think of a friend of mine, Ed Stale from Georgia. I met Ed 3 or 4 years ago and I won’t make it this year because of a conflict in schedule. Every year I go and hunt with him, and another good friend of mine over there in the Atlanta area, good client of mine and we’ve become very good friends. He’d come to Mississippi and duck hunted, I’ve gone over there and turkey hunted done there and we see each other 3 or 4 times a year around the world. But I met Ed and over there turkey hunting one time and oh boy, Ed’s a turkey hunter now. It don’t help that he’s about 6.5ft tall, big old long legs, me keeping up with him pretty tough, that guy have got a stride on him, we go turkey hunting. He’s that real serious turkey hunter, he knows turkeys. The first time we ever hunted with him, just kind of telling the story on myself, first time I ever turkey hunted with him, we got off the wood, we got down there, there’s a little bottom out through there in the woods. There’s turkeys over there I think I can get them to gobble and put a few decoys out. You sit here and I’m going to sit here, and we didn’t know anybody from Adam, we just met that night. Boom! Next morning we turkey hunt together. Whatever he did call or whatever he did, both of them gobblers just light off, right off the bat. They hit the ground, gobble-gobble. I didn’t ever see them. Boy, I’m thinking they’re coming right in, I got my gun up man, I’m pointing towards the decoys, I’m ready –
Rocky Leflore: We have to work on your sound effects before next week.
Ramsey Russell: All right.
Rocky Leflore: Go ahead.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, well anyway. That’s what it sounds like to a deaf duck hunting ear. Anyway, these turkeys are gobbling – you ought to hear me imitate thunder – anyway, they shut up and they got quieter, they did what they’re going to do, and I got bored. I mean, I’m sitting there in my little vest, he’s off behind me, he ain’t making sounds no more. I don’t know, 30 minutes later something catches my eye and I looked to my right, where there’s 2 gobblers coming down – not from in front of us, but from behind us. Ed? This guy is as deaf as ham, he don’t see them turkeys. Well, look at them out there about 60-70 yards and I pivot around a little bit and step behind a tree, step back out. Boom! I shoot and I lost sight of them because they went behind a big old tree. Man, Ed looks like a tall man anyway, but when he jumped up as quick as he did and was sitting over me yelling, I mean, holler and scolding me for shooting those turkeys. He looked 10ft tall. I stood up and said, “Man, relax. I got him, he’s right there behind that tree.” He goes, “There ain’t, no way.” I said, “Ed that turkey is dead as a wed, I guarantee you that, 60-70 yards, I killed that turkey, he’s right behind that tree right there. You can’t see him.” He relaxed and we walked over there, and Rocky, there wasn’t a feather, there wasn’t nothing. We went and shot that choke, I had all the faith in and put it on paper. I can’t remember where I got that choke, I shot that choke for 10 years, I’ve killed turkeys that far and I had shot geese a mile high and all that mess with it. We went and put it on paper that afternoon and I think 3 BB’s hit the paper or hit the box the paper was on at that far. So, boy was I embarrassed.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, outta left field, let me ask you something. What size shot was it?
Ramsey Russell: Probably 5, probably heavy shot 5, duck 5 at that. I mean you think I went bought turkey load and I went bought duck 5, that’d make sense. Since then my son Forrest, who is into all this stuff, has got me rigged up with a choke and the clip on sites that are amazingly accurate, throws a great pattern at that distance and some kind of G-whiz ammo that somebody makes. 3.5 inch and I never shoot a 3.5, if I shoot a 3.5 inch shell once or twice a year at a turkey and I hadn’t done it this year and I ain’t going to. Out there in Texas, with the code of the tower at that time, I smoked that turkey out there about 60 yards. I mean in fact there was 3 of them and I was thinking to myself, I’m fixing to stamp out and fixing to tag out right here in one trigger pull. I aimed at the middle one to pull the trigger and it looked like a sledgehammer hit him in the head. Like a carpet beetle on an amble, he folded so quick and the other two just left unscathed. Get through a pattern about like a snuff can. So I’m impressed with that. I wish I had that. Ed wouldn’t happen to hate on me about every time I see him because don’t think my buddy Ed don’t remind me. And if he doesn’t, his buddy – my Georgia buddy – does. That story comes up every single time I go to Georgia. Maybe they’ll forget about it next year.
Rocky Leflore: I’ll tell you this and the reason I ask you that from that story was I was given a jelly head choke years ago when they first were really popular. Anyway, I shot it and I could never get the pattern right, kind of the same scenario that you just played out. 4 or 5 pellets at 30 yards in a one by one sheet of paper, what in the world? I called Will and said, “Will what is the deal with these chokes?” The first question out of his mouth was what size shot are you using? I said, “I think they’re either 4’s or 5.” He said, “For some reason in some guns, these jelly heads will not shoot a 4 or 5. Yeah, they would not shoot a 4 or 5, they just would send them scattering everywhere.” But you put a – I think it was a 4 but you put a 5-6 or 7 in it and it was just tight like a slug. So I found that interesting that day. He said, “Man, what are you doing?” I’ll never forget this part of this conversation. He said, “What are you doing shooting 3.5?” And let me tell you something, if you all ever run into Will at the show and he asks you why you shoot 3.5 inch, don’t tell him because they don’t make 4 inch. He doesn’t like that joke. He is a firm believer in getting them into 20 yards 15-20 yards and killing them that way. He is a firm believer not reaching out and touching one.
Hunting for Meat?
I do think that one of the greatest tributes to the hunt, the hunter, and the hunted is properly cooked game. But I don’t hunt for meat. I hunt for that relationship with that animal, that connection to that animal, and to the habitat, and to the people.
Ramsey Russell: It goes back to kind of that intimate relationship with that animal, doesn’t it? I get it now. People are hunting with me and I hunt all over the world and we’re pass shooting different things like that at ducks. So I’m not that guy – I want that duck to be over the decoys – it’s not going to make or break my hunt. If he gets within range, I’m going to pull the trigger. Most people I hunt with know it or do it themselves. I don’t mean, 80 yards, I’m talking about just within respectable range. But I mean there is a lot to be said hunting with a shotgun to be at turkeys or ducks and getting that animal within that threshold of ownership. There’s a lot to be said, that really kind of is the sport. I was working on a post when you called – food for thought. I’ll admit it Rocky, I don’t hunt for food, I am not a meat hunter. I don’t think anybody is.
Rocky Leflore: Small percentage.
Ramsey Russell: I really don’t think in this day and age – very small percentage. Now, Rocky tons of waterfowl and wild fowl and game birds, game animals, and venison, and pork across my plate into my stomach during the course of a year. I try everything. Oh man, there’s some of the foods I’ve eaten over the course of my life – I’m that guy will try anything. I do think that one of the greatest tributes to the hunt, the hunter, and the hunted is properly cooked game. But I don’t hunt for meat. I hunt for that relationship with that animal, that connection to that animal, and to the habitat, and to the people. That’s just kind of mine. I think we all do. Well, at the end of the day I hunt because it’s fun. I don’t hunt to eat, I don’t hunt for meat and I don’t think my granddad did either. Man, let me tell you, he whole picked doves and ducks and he was that guy. Utilized every bit of what he killed but he didn’t hunt for meat either. He hunted because he enjoyed being the camp cook. He enjoyed that sign above the door it said, “Russell’s Kitchen.” Cooking no cleaning. He enjoyed playing cards with the boys and going out to the duck blinds and calling and they didn’t limit every day, they just had a good time. When they shot duck, he by God plucked them all and cooked them. At the time I remember everybody liked his stew, that’s what he did with all his game and it really wasn’t a gumbo, now, it was a stew. That’s how he cooked a lot of his stuff and he did not hunt to eat and you know as a duck hunter, that bird is 10-15 yards, back palling over decoys, boom you own him. I can see where Will’s coming from with that turkey is just, the stars lined up, you played the game. Both people on stage did what they’re supposed to do and it’s right there. There’s lot to be said for that. Yeah, I think there’s a whole lot to be said for that.
Rocky Leflore: Ramsey, you work with federal lands there for a little while in your career, let me ask you this question. You know what the thing that I’ve learned about with when it comes to deer hunting or sometimes turkey hunting and sometimes duck hunting, the people that want to always run to the middle aren’t always the most successful. What I mean by that some of the people that have killed some of the biggest deer on the refuge system in the United States are the people that let the wild Indians front to the middle, and the guy that sets up on the outside kills the biggest deer 100 yards from truck.
Ramsey Russell: That’s true. Those guys that I knew, knew where those funnels were that they were coming through. So they would by God persistently stick was where they knew, those deer were going to come through that funnel. Just filter through that little funnel and the more pressure you had to run around the woods, the more water was coming through that funnel, the more game was just coming through that funnel. They were being pushed just by being stirred up, you’re right about that. And it wasn’t always most remote locations, it was going through the funnel.
Central Flyway to Change Mallard Hen Limit?
To sit by and do nothing is to just say you go along with it.
Rocky Leflore: Two of the biggest buck kills I know were literally 150 yards away from the truck on refuge in Mississippi. Hey, look before I let you go. I don’t know if – I saw this just a minute ago. I’m sure it’s not April Fool’s because he commented and said that it is real. Brad Albeck made a post on Duck South, said that the Central Flyway is proposing going up to a 3 mallard hen limit this year.
Ramsey Russell: Right now?
Rocky Leflore: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, that’s surprising me. I haven’t seen that Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Kill 5 mallards but 3 hens is a possibility.
Ramsey Russell: I just can’t imagine that.
Rocky Leflore: Somebody has – Two people have asked him that and said, is this a joke? I mean are you a couple of days late on your April Fool’s? He said no, this is sad to say, but it’s not a joke at all. I said, my thing is with the uncertainty in water fowling right now, this probably isn’t the best year to go to 3 hens. Maybe after we figure a couple of things out in the next couple of years, yeah, maybe, but right now? I don’t like that at all.
Ramsey Russell: I’m not a mallard purist. I’m not a green head purist but as you evolve as a duck hunter, at some point in time in every duck hunter’s life that I know, it becomes less about the numbers. This is what 3 hens would do and more about – what we just talked about that turkey and that duck. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with shooting hen mallard but you got to admit green head look better than hen in a picture. Why would you do that? I have no idea. I’m not saying that science and I feel like I’m pretty on top of it all. I’m not saying that proposal heard that, but anybody opposed to it, he needs to email somebody and complain about it. Tell them that you may be opposed to it, let your voice be heard, exercise your freedom of speech and write emails to congressmen, and to flyway leaders, and let them know that’s asinine idea. To sit by and do nothing is to just say you go along with it. I can’t believe that.
Ramsey Russell: You had a lot of hunters on the edge after last season. Maybe it’s because the sport itself is ruled by mostly young hunters. Most of them, like you talked about in this podcast before, have not seen low limits, limited number of days that you can hunt. All they’ve ever known is 60 days and so when you have a bad season, let’s just say it’s a little bit over-emotional. But the guys that have been in it a long time know that you have bad seasons. Hey, let’s wait and see what happens.
Duck Migration Patterns and Explanations
So, man, I mean, more ducks is better, let’s – fingers crossed – let’s hope we get a lot of duck productivity next year and let’s hope we do get some wintertime.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I agree with that man. And I’ll tell you this, since we talked about doom and gloom productivity to the drought or dry or heat, there seems to be in a lot of rain and a lot of snow pack. I’m encouraged again, duck hunters are eternal optimist, a lot of us are, and I’m encouraged. I’m very encouraged by the amount of water up in the Dakotas and the amount of winter precipitation that’s accumulated up in Canada, so it could be productivity. I thought Delta Waterfowl, in light of and in response to a group out of Louisiana that shall remain unnamed – I don’t think they deserve mentioning – but in response to that, Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited have really come out swinging with the science and with some very good explanations about the duck migration last year. I thought Delta Waterfowl – I wish I could remember that biologist’s name – very articulate and boy, had his data lined up. Brought in a lot of factors in the part in the first two parts that I saw, a three part series of why ducks didn’t make it south last year. He talked about the weather, he talked about the migration, but one thing he brought up that Rocky, I never really thought about, well, he brought up the productivity last year. With the science, with the numbers, especially of species that generally fly Deep South regardless of weather. He talked about their less instead of productivity. So, man, I mean, more ducks is better, let’s – fingers crossed – let’s hope we get a lot of duck productivity next year and let’s hope we do get some wintertime.
Rocky Leflore: We said it was going to take a miracle. We said many, many times it was going to take a miracle this spring. And Good Lord, if March wasn’t the miracles for the duck hunt needed. I mean, it was a shock.
Ramsey Russell: Some of the reports I’ve heard is a lot of the Dakotas, a lot of the prairie, lot of Iowa, all this little corner of North theory is all shot to the devil back next year because there’s a lot of farmers that are not going to get their crops in. Especially corn, due to the amount of floodwater that’s up there, has been coming through that part of the world, the upper Mississippi River Basin. So let’s just scratch that theory right here. Now there ain’t going to be corn to do a lot of that with for a lot of folks. There might be some, but it ain’t going to be near to corn on the landscape in the upper Mississippi Flyway that there has been in the past. Because they’re still ravaged with water right now.
How Hunting Pressure Affects Duck Numbers
The reason they go back to these sanctuaries where the corn is because of the pressure during the daytime.
Rocky Leflore: Ramsey crazy black helicopter deal. Forrest talked about it in that first podcast that he was on, that he was against the – all these people had all this corn, all these ducks sitting on it. These ducks sitting on these – most of the time I’ve seen in this area, people plant corn and flood it and leave it for sanctuary. Number one for ducks to feed on but more importantly, for shelter. Ducks feel safe. It’s almost like going back to the coffee weeds. But as we sit here and we see all these ducks sitting on all these sanctuaries and we say, “Oh this corn is a magnet, man, that’s drawing these ducks in, it’s drawing them in.” How much of that is related to pressure? Because as long as I can remember the reason ducks go nocturnal, can go out and feed at night, it’s because of pressure being applied to them. The reason they go back to these sanctuaries where the corn is because of the pressure during the daytime.
Ramsey Russell: You’re right, Rocky. As we talked a few podcasts ago about that, about this subject of ducks and duck numbers and hunting pressure and stuff like that, I was literally sitting in a parking lot waiting on my dear wife running and get some groceries and stuff one day. Just off the top of my head, I was thinking about this subject. It’s just off the top of my head and I’m no biologist. I’m not Delta Waterfowl, I’m not Ducks Unlimited in terms of their biology there. Man, they’ve got some rocket scientists working for them. And the numbers don’t lie, in my opinion. I’m just telling you, their science don’t lie, the numbers don’t lie. I think they’re very smart people. But we talked about a – I described a matrix, a myriad of different reasons why things change. Well, first off things just change. The universe is dynamic. The earth is dynamic, climate is dynamic and I throw this out there for just consider to yourself that, millions of years ago dinosaurs roamed Mongolia and big T-rex heads are found where it’s presently -50 degrees during the winter time. You know what dinosaurs didn’t live in? -50 degrees. They never have, they never will. Okay, that’s why they ain’t there no more. It’s because weather changed geologically. I got to think about this, we talked about hunting pressure for example, I just made some notes to myself. Just a little note, things I could do and I’ll add to it as I think of things one day, it’s just what I do. But talking about hunting pressure, there is on the one hand, the data don’t lie, there’s fewer hunters overall than it was, say back in the 1970s, but there’s a lot less acreage then there was in a hunt back during the 1970s. So, we got more people on fewer acres. We are 20 years into a liberal framework of adaptive harvest management. I’m going to go on a limb and say okay, the numbers don’t lie. I’m trusting fingers crossed, hope to God that they’re right. Intuitively, I don’t believe it, but I’m going to leave it to the guys that know the numbers. But we’ve also got extended seasons, okay? My dad who was not a big duck hunter as an adult at all, I can remember 20 something years ago, we’ve been out on the river and just smacked them mallards as we were let into the Broke Foot. We were hitting Broke Foot pretty hard, which was just an ephemeral little duck hole we found that just never was again. We broke the foot on our motor riding up on willow tree to get back in there and take turns shooting them mallards, the green heads, and it was pretty nice. I stopped by to see dad because Greenville Mississippi got some lousy colored water. There’s something about the softness of it all. I think my dad had the best coffee. Just told Mr. Coffee and on a cold day I’d stop by and get coffee, get the best coffee. He come out here and look at those ducks and talked about the river hunt, be careful, everything else. My dad would always say to my uncle who’s in his 70s now, and say the same thing, that the good old days are now. Man, back in those days, we didn’t kill ducks. They had private property, matter of fact, my granddaddy built a pond, camp house – had a camp house for a decade on the South end of Washington County – it’s now in a federal refuge system. And they shot ducks, but nothing like I conjured them shooting. My dad say, you all can shoot 6 ducks, 4 mallards, he said, “We didn’t do that. We couldn’t do that, we were on a point system, we didn’t do that. You know the good old days are now.” He said, “Look at that what you got, it’s unbelievable.” But their season was sometimes shorter too. I just consider when I say a longer season, how many people go out and start hunting in September now? Upper Flyway, heck yeah, their season kickoff, but even down South during teal season. Rocky as recently as 20 years ago, nobody, I would tell you went out teal hunting. Now who doesn’t? A lot of people go out blue wing teal hunting and now we’re running snow geese all the way up into what mid to late May up in Canada. So, we’re kicking off and August 15th in the Dakotas for dark Canada geese. September 1st in the Upper Flyway for birds all the way down the flyway, all the way back up the fly away. And I know that since January, whatever, 26th, 27th (last Sunday) of January, we ain’t been shooting ducks, but we’ve been – the snow goose hunters, especially the ditch crawlers and scouters and this and that – it sure have been bouncing a lot. I mean, seriously Rocky that’s a lot that’s changed and it’s good sense to say the good old days. Am I right? That’s a lot of change. You start looking back at Nash Buckingham’s day, those gentlemen didn’t go out and hunt for 60 days, Rocky. They went out hunting for two weeks. They took off, they took vacation from the bank, or from whatever they were doing, and they got on the train and they went down to Mississippi Delta and they buckboard wagoned into a swamp, and they hunted for two or three weeks, and went back home. That was it.
Rocky Leflore: I think that a lot of people think that those guys – and you and I’ve talked – when did we talk about that two or three weeks ago, a month ago? A lot of people think that those guys hunted 30 or 40 days of the whole season. No. It came a couple of weeks, that’s the peak of it.
Changes in Hunters Over the Years
It ain’t just something you go do for a few days a year. For most of us, it’s life or death. It’s every waking moment.
Ramsey Russell: That brings up a different thing, it’s like what’s also changed just in my lifetime. Just as I was a duck hunter for the last 30 something years, is a change in hunter attitudes. My granddad’s quality time was going out and playing cards at his duck camp, and shooting some ducks, and whole picking them. And for my daddy to tell me that we’re in the good old days versus then? Versus now, the marketing if nothing else. I mean now hunting is a passion, it’s a lifestyle, it is the basis of many people’s vanity, but it ain’t just a recreation. It ain’t just something you go do for a few days a year. For most of us, it’s life or death. It’s every waking moment. As I can get off of work, as I can get away from the family, if momma will let me quit Christmas shopping, if I can come in late for Christmas dinner, boom, I’m hunting, I’m duck hunting son. That’s a whole lot of change and now versus your granddaddy’s day. Unless your grandad was a market hunter, a few of them were and with that Rocky, look at hunter mobility. Ask yourself who goes to Paypaw’s Back 40 and hunts 60 days a year? Yeah, some do nothing wrong with that at all. But when I’m home, I like to hunt, I know just where I want to hunt. It’s not everywhere, its one place. But I’m just saying, to me a profound effect is taking place in terms of talking about hunting pressure where now look at the massive, the collective quest for species. The North American 40 or 50 or 60 or whatever you call it, a lot of people! And even if they ain’t, they ain’t just hunting Mississippi – to hunt Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and hey, let’s throw in Oklahoma this year, or go to Kansas, or go Canada. We’ll freelance up in Canada for $20. I mean, people are hunting – this duck hunter, and that duck hunt, and all these hardcore duck hunters are hunting lots of places besides. Or if nothing else they’re hunting their lease and 5 others or 10 others plus public land. I mean, to get those days in and to stay in those duck numbers Rocky, that’s a whole to change. Then look at the technological advances in ammo. The change in ammo between my granddaddy shooting a Remington Mohawk high brass 6’s or 7.5 verses 3.5 space edge technology will penetrate still at 95 yards and guaranteed kill a duck at a half mile. I mean, you know what I’m talking about, right? I’m exaggerating, but I’m saying the mindset of it all. To where not only might people be spending more days in the field or in a blind, but now maybe they’re stretching out further than that 15, 20 yards that old granddaddy was shooting with a Remington non-vented Rio 1100 and 2 or 3 quarter inch 6’s, maybe they are. The camo and gear – we hide better, and we’re more comfortable, and we stay longer, or we can stay longer. Look at just the way transportation has changed, Rocky, with the advent of mud motors and hyper drives and I mean just the transportation technology in terms of ATV’s. My granddad didn’t have that, son. They got out, drove the bronco to the edge of the lot and crawled over the levee and walked to the duck blind. Now, people go roaring up in with ATV and in parts of the marsh, parts of this and parts of that, parts of the world. Where can a duck hide anymore unless it’s closed off? They can’t, buddy, we can drive right up to it. That’s pressure. I never forget one time Rocky when I was working in –
Rocky Leflore: There’s a lot of stuff that didn’t get used. Like you’re saying, a lot of stuff that didn’t get used to that did not get hunted.
Ramsey Russell: No, it’s changed. I’ll tell you this story, everybody knows if they ever listen to your podcast, that’s what I’m talking about. Mr. Pat Pitt, buddy he got an absolute “Do not drive” in his field from an ATV during duck season. How many people do that? How important is that? I mean come on. Let me tell you a story, I was working for US Fish and Wildlife service and we had a – I never really accepted and understood it. Like man, we’re going to open this place to hunt, let people come in there and drive and do stuff, oh heck no. One day I had to go in and pull some boards on the water control structure on a 640 acre sanctuary in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. And I couldn’t get down this new road in my truck to the gate, so I loaded up a Kawasaki 4 wheeler, which is not the loudest, and it certainly wasn’t modified to be loud or fast or anything else. Just a stock cold running Kawasaki and I got it off, got it cranked, put it up to the gate, 640 acres in the middle of duck season. I can’t remember if I had to add a board, I think I had take a board down because that dang, whole section was nearly wall to wall of water. But for whatever reason I had to go to that structure. I got to the gate had stopped and unlock it and some ducks right in front of me got up. Just on the other side of gate, just outside of property, and I sat there before I could unlock that gate, I watched that entire section with my 4 wheeler running, I watched that entire section, 640 acres of Sanctuary, I watched it void completely of ducks. Lifting off like a domino effect. An entire section of timber and brush and vines and cover and not just wide open, we’re talking a good habitat, good sanctuary habitat. Tallahatchie County, Mississippi for ducks, that entire thing boarded at the sound of that 4 wheeler. We were just talking about putting stress and putting pressure. I’m not talking about bam-bam killing duck pressure Rocky, we’re talking pressure. Who hasn’t got a four wheeler or a loud boat? Everybody. A lot louder than old Kawasaki 4 wheeler 20 something years ago. I think there’s a lot to be said for technological advances and how hunting pressure and the sources of hunting pressure have changed since granddaddy’s day. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I’ve seen these threads and I don’t get on these threads. Everybody’s got an opinion and I respect your opinion, I may not agree with it, probably don’t, but I respect it. This whole man is about change in refuges and change in – man, no, they do not remove sanctuary from the equation. I’m sorry. It is full of ducks and your duck hole ain’t. My humble opinion: ducks got to have somewhere to go where they ain’t getting shot at or disturbed. And to my knowledge, only the state and federal governments are providing it.
Rocky Leflore: No, I’m not getting into the sanctuary deal with you – what I’m talking about, you just cannot deny. You want to say corn but you can’t deny everything that Ramsey just whispered.
Ramsey Russell: Hunting pressure, man. It’s hunting pressure. It’s a lot of hunting pressure on these birds now. There’s no denying that.
Rocky Leflore: I hate that we have to end it on a discussion that we’re not done with, but we’re just about out of time. Ramsey, really enjoyed it, today. I had to give old Forrest a call, Forrest can come up here and hunt with me.
Ramsey Russell: You heard him Forrest, I’ll send him a text. He’ll probably be knocking on your door in about – whenever he gets out of his school this afternoon. Anyway, good luck to everybody out there turkey hunting. I’m glad I don’t.
Rocky Leflore: Well Forrest isn’t but probably 30 minutes from where I hunt, so I’ll be happy to have him. But Ramsey, thank you again, I want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of The End of The Line podcast, powered by ducksouth.com.